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Woman survives injuries, exposure

Chad Abraham

A Brazilian woman who fractured her skull and broke her leg at Aspen Highlands on Friday spent the night on the mountain and was found the next morning unconscious and hypothermic.Renata Sialeini’s condition was reportedly improving Sunday, two days after an ordeal in which she hit a tree and then survived likely subzero temperatures. Sialeini, who is in her mid-30s, was found in the upper Temerity section of the ski area, in a stand of trees on the skier’s right on the Kessler’s Bowl trail. The terrain is expert-only.Neither the ski patrol nor any local law enforcement had been notified that she was missing, said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case as a medical call. No criminal charges will be filed, said Ann Stephenson, sheriff’s office patrol supervisor.She said investigators were satisfied after interviewing the woman’s family. Asked why they did not report Sialeini missing, she said she didn’t know but cited possible cultural reasons.”Although [the family] had been alarmed, they didn’t think to call police,” Stephenson said. “In our experience dealing with Brazilian people – and I hate generalizations – they are not apt to call police for help. I have a feeling it may have something to do with the type of policing that goes on in Brazil.”When Sialeini was hurt wasn’t known, but her lift ticket was last scanned between 2 and 3 p.m. Friday, Hanle said. A group of skiers found her around 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Ski patrollers, on their regular end-of-the-day sweep, did not spot her or hear any cries for help Friday.”We can miss someone in a patrol sweep – especially in trees and glades,” a source at the Aspen Skiing Co. said. “It’s our worst nightmare.”The source asked not to be named because of company policy barring employees from speaking to the press. The source, a longtime employee at the company, said that patrollers call out as they make their final sweeps down the mountain. If she was unconscious and covered by snow or in a secluded area, there’s a chance that she would have been missed.Sialeini had a pulse and respiration when the ski patrol arrived with her at the ambulance, Hanle said. Stephenson said authorities had a difficult time locating Sialeini’s family. An Aspen Valley Hospital supervisor would not release any information or confirm whether the victim was still there Sunday.The temperature in town Friday night dropped to 1 degree, and it was likely below zero at higher elevations.Dr. Steve Ayers, an emergency room physician at the hospital, said severe hypothermia is treated by rewarming the victim’s blood.”We have a saying in medicine, ‘No one is dead until they’re warm and dead,'” he said.Doctors also use warm intravenous fluids and air to raise the victim’s temperature. Sialeini improved quickly after being intubated, Stephenson said. The procedure involves putting a tube down the throat, usually to assist with breathing.Stephenson said she had been told that Sialeini’s condition had improved significantly.Hanle said Skico officials would perform a detailed accident investigation.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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